The attorneys at Banville Law are now accepting new cases from individuals who sustained severe injuries in electronic cigarette explosions, focusing our investigations on the manufacturers of defective e-cig batteries and retailers who failed to properly warn their customers of known risks.
Although our firm is based in New York, we’re investigating explosions nationwide, coordinating our efforts with a national coalition of personal injury lawyers devoted to addressing this issue head-on. We’ve joined forces with the experienced attorneys at Lipsig, Shapey, Manus & Moverman, a personal injury firm whose lawyers have secured more than $500 million for clients over a 30-year history.
Electronic Cigarette Explosions
The science on vaporizing is still weak. It’s a new industry, and researchers are unsure whether or not the benefits of e-cigs outweigh their risks. While there’s little doubt that vaping is less harmful than smoking, the habit’s long-term consequences are still uncertain. Early hopes that electronic cigarettes would prove a useful smoking cessation aid haven’t panned out, with multiple studies finding decidedly mixed results, according to WebMD.
Media attention has largely focused on the direct health consequences of vaping, of inhaling a vaporized gas composed of glycerine, propylene glycol, flavoring chemicals, and nicotine. But there’s another, significant safety risk that has received less attention. E-cigs are exploding.
Defective E-Cig Batteries Explode Suddenly
According to the reports of fire marshals across the country, along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a recent spate of major e-cig explosions appear to be caused by defective lithium-ion batteries.
Utilized for over two decades in consumer applications from mobile phones to flashlights, these batteries can be efficient, and their ability to be recharged is certainly a positive. But they can also be dangerous, filled with highly-flammable materials kept under intense pressures. Even minor errors on the part of a manufacturer can lead to serious risks. It’s no surprise that some of the world’s largest electronics companies, like Dell, Sony, and Nokia, have all issued recalls for millions of devices after their batteries began igniting or detonating.
Thankfully, most of the lithium-ion batteries used in high-end electronics are now protected from failure by multiple built-in safety mechanisms, like software-guided circuits that stop a charging cycle before a unit overcharges. Many of the batteries used in electronic cigarettes, on the other hand, are far cruder pieces of technology. Some aren’t even equipped with the most minimal fail-safe measures.
Lithium-ion batteries have always been regarded with caution, but it now appears that some electronic cigarettes may be outfitted with woefully defective batteries. In several recent cases, consumers suffered serious, potentially devastating, chemical burns after an e-cig battery suddenly exploded in their pocket. Others have found, with shock, that a charging electronic cigarette began shooting off flames, endangering life and property, with little notice. In all of these cases, it seems that lithium-ion batteries are at the root of e-cigarette explosions.
FDA Gains Authority
E-cigarettes were introduced to the US market in 2007 and, at first, no one really knew how to deal with them. The federal government’s first instinct was to regulate e-cigs like other tobacco products, including traditional cigarettes, and rigorously compare the benefits of each product against its risks. That would have brought electronic cigarettes under the authority of the US Food & Drug Administration, but regulating e-cigs across the board proved harder than the FDA had foreseen.
While most eLiquids contain nicotine, and most of that nicotine is derived from tobacco, consumers who use more sophisticated e-cigs, like vape pens and mechanical mods, don’t necessarily vape tobacco-derived eLiquids. From that standpoint, covering every device under the same FDA umbrella didn’t seem to make much sense. Members of Congress also worried that requiring FDA approval, which is expensive, would have put smaller e-cig manufacturers out of business, leaving only corporate giants like RJ Reynolds to serve consumer desire.
But that debate has now been put to rest officially. On March 5, 2016, the FDA announced a major expansion of its regulatory authority. Every e-cigarette product, from vape pens and cig-a-likes to complex personal vaporizers, will now undergo the agency’s stringent quality review. Companies that make eLiquids will have to submit exhaustive lists of the chemicals included in their products, allowing FDA scientists to learn more about vaporizing’s health risks in general, and the potential dangers of specific products.
Devices will also be screened by federal officials, and manufacturing facilities will be open to unannounced quality inspections. Batteries will also be a focus of FDA attention, not only the lithium-ion batteries packaged alongside some vaporizers but also any battery that you could “reasonably expect” to be used for vaporizing a tobacco product.
Injured Consumers Turn To Lawsuits
In time, these new regulations will likely have a positive impact on the quality and safety of e-cig devices on a national level. eLiquids will become more consistent in their chemical contents and devices will be manufactured to a higher standard. But these improvements will come slowly, over the course of several years. In the meantime, hundreds of electronic cigarettes are already on the market, and there are surely defective batteries sitting on the shelves of vape shops across the country.
Some vapers have already been seriously injured by exploding e-cigarettes. Take Jennifer Ries, a 31-year-old from California. Back in 2013, Ries and her husband were on the way to the airport when she remembered her e-cig needed charging. But after Ries plugged the device into her car’s cigarette port, a liquid started leaking out of its battery. The car started filling with the smell of nail polish remover, she would later say. Then, with a loud bang, the e-cig exploded, igniting Ries’ dress and drenching her lap in searing chemicals, according to the Los Angeles Times. Terrified and on fire, Ries tried to jump out of the car while it was moving, until her husband was able to extinguish the flames with an iced coffee.
Ries sustained severe injuries in the explosion, including second-degree burns across her legs and hands. Eventually, she chose to file suit, pursuing the product’s manufacturer, wholesaler and the shop where she purchased the device. In her exploding e-cig lawsuit, Ries accused the companies of being involved in the “distribution of a product that failed to conform to any kind of reasonable safety expectation.” Her logic was simple: “battery chargers should not explode.” Ries also said the businesses had failed to warn her about known risks.
On September 29, 2015, a jury in the Riverside County Superior Court agreed, awarding Ries almost $2 million in damages, money that will go towards her recovery, both physical and psychological. “It was an accident that completely changed my life,” she later told the Times. “You never expect when you buy something that it’s going to misfire or break or injure you. It was extremely scary.”
You May Have A Case
Jennifer Ries may have been the first consumer to file a lawsuit after being hurt by an exploding e-cig, but she wasn’t the last. Today, more and more vapers are choosing to pursue the manufacturers of defective lithium-ion batteries and the retailers who sell them negligently.
You may be entitled to compensation, too. If you or a loved one were injured during an explosion, our e-cigarette lawyers want to hear from you. Banville Law’s experienced product liability attorneys are now offering free consultations, and reviewing potential cases actively.
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